Starbucks recently announced that it is launching a new media company that will produce long-form TV and film documentaries exploring social issues important to the brand. The multinational coffee company is the latest in a growing number of consumer and B2B brands (Red Bull, GE and Intel to name a few) that have publishing departments pumping out branded content. But branded content (also called brand journalism or custom content) is markedly different than traditional advertising, PR and marketing, because it puts the reader's needs before the company's sales agenda.
By adopting the practices of a publisher like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, large and small companies can create useful content that builds trust with potential customers and deepens their relationship with existing customers. Here are five ways to think like a publisher.
Conduct interviews with credible experts. Articles published by major publishers typically contain quotes from independent experts to give the story more authority. Instead of simply publishing articles written by your in-house experts, look further afield for other points of view (for instance, Opentopic publishes a Content Marketing Spotlight series). Conducting your own interviews takes a little time, but it's much more credible than simply publishing snippets of an interview from another source, as some bloggers do.
Include relevant statistics. Citing data from outside your organization can help give your content more credibility. For instance, if you were writing about how tech companies can better screen job applicants, you might include a recent statistic about the number of job applications submitted each year or on the cost of hiring and training each new hire. Reputable trade associations, government agencies and universities are good places to look for relevant data. When it comes to statistics, the more recent, the better and if you're citing a survey, the larger the sample size, the better. Always attribute statistics to their original source, just like a big-time publisher would.
Use storytelling devices. There's an old journalism saying that remains true to this day: "show, don't tell." Setting the scene through dialogue, telling details and journalistic descriptions can help draw readers into your content (just keep those details focused and the story moving forward so your reader doesn't drown in opposition before they get to the meat of the piece). Basecamp's website The Distance, which features one in-depth profile of a long-running business, is a great example of storytelling in action. This style of content takes time, so it may make sense to hire professional journalists to create it, as Basecamp has done.
Produce original multimedia content. With better quality smartphone cameras and inexpensive editing software, it's easier than ever for individuals and businesses to shoot and edit photos and video for posting online. Nowadays, major publishers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal routinely post short videos online. In addition to web videos, you could also create slideshows, infographics and other highly shareable content formats
Curate relevant third-party content. Good journalists strive to give their readers multiple points of view, and content curation is a great way to do this. Combing the web for the most relevant and interesting content in your niche and sharing it with your readers positions your brand as an authority on that topic, even if you haven't personally produced all that content yourself. Many brands and publishers do this as a weekly roundup of stories, but you could experiment with presenting curated content in different ways.
High-quality content like you might see published on a new major news site can help establish trust and boost brand awareness. The key, as large publishers know, is focusing on the reader to ensure that the content you present is the content that meets their needs.